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Council Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) casts doubt on EU policy of "safe" return of refugees to Afghanistan

- Afghanistan: "We are concerned at the deteriorating humanitarian situation"
-"Pakistan have hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the last forty years and we commend them"
- "Iran have hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the last forty years and we commend them"
21.10.17
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A report from the Council's Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid: COHAFA common messages on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan (LIMITE doc no: 12697-17, pdf) states that:

Afghanistan

"We are concerned at the deteriorating humanitarian situation, as well as at the mounting civilian casualties and the attacks on humanitarian aid operations. We note that by the third quarter of 2017 205,000 people have been displaced , 58 % of which are children, bringing the total number of internally displaced people (IDPs) to 1.7 million. (...)

The safety and well-being of women and girls are a particular concern. We call on all parties to the conflict to protect women, girls and boys from any form of gender-based violence, in particular abduction, rape and other forms of sexual abuse. We also call on all parties to the conflict to stop the forcible recruitment of children.

We consider any targeting of humanitarian personnel and assets totally unacceptable and in violation of international humanitarian law. We note that in 2017 alone 15 humanitarian workers have been killed, 12 wounded and 39 abducted.

We are also concerned that if the conflict continues to deteriorate as at present, humanitarian operations could become so overstretched, or so dangerous to implement, that they will no longer be able to provide the 3.6 million vulnerable Afghans that are currently targeted with life-saving assistance."
[emphasis added throughout]

Pakistan

"We acknowledge the fact that the Government and people of Pakistan have hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the last forty years, and we commend them accordingly. We urge Pakistan to protect all refugees from any humanitarian crises by respecting all the relevant provisions under international humanitarian law and in particular allow registered (POR card holding) refugees to remain until they decide to go home voluntarily."

Note: "POR" means a card with Proof of Registration.

Iran

"We acknowledge the fact that the Government and people of Iran have hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the last forty years, and we commend them accordingly.

We welcome the fact that the Government of Iran has given over one million registered refugees access to the state health system and that all refugee children (registered or not) have been permitted to enrol in schools. We commend the Government for these actions.

We continue to encourage Iran to afford due protection to those who require it under international law but also urge that any returns should be carried out in a dignified manner and with appropriate prior notification to the receiving country. We further encourage Iran to afford special attention to the welfare and protection of women, unaccompanied minors and people with disabilities – who are particularly exposed to the risks of exploitation and violence."

See: EU-Afghanistan returns plan: Another "dodgy" deal (Statewatch, 30.9.16)

- Deal to be signed next week to start immediate refugee "return" flights
- Is Afghanistan a "safe country"?
- Quick return of 80,000 refugees planned
- "effectively implement readmission commitments" - by-passing parliamentary scrutiny

And: Forced back to danger: Asylum-seekers returned from Europe to Afghanistan (Amnesty International Report, pdf)

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